(Bob Holeman conducted this series of interviews with local World War II in 2011-12. Most of those 34 American heroes have passed away in the decade since).
When we think of American soldiers fighting for our freedoms, we generally visualize mature, battle-tested men.
But as we look at history, we find that our soldiers were often boys, placed on the fast track to manhood by way of military service.
Such was the case of Roy Stickman, a Virginia lad of 17 who was likely thinking about his fast-approaching 18th birthday in 1943 as he was working in a Washington, D.C., bakery.
“But when I got home one day, there was a letter, inviting me to report to the doctor for an Army physical. I’m sure my mom could have gotten me out of it, due to age and hardship and all. But we didn’t.”
Stickman was assigned to the 204th Ordnance of the 9th Air Force. “Our voyage across the Atlantic was a historic one,” he said. “We sailed from New York to Scotland on the Queen Mary in record time. But when we got there, we had to remain on board for a few days due to a flu outbreak ashore.”
Once the American troops were allowed to disembark, Stickman said he boarded a train to Oxford University where he stayed until they found room for him on the base in England, not far outside of London.
As the army advanced on the European front, Stickman explained, the duty of his unit was to trail behind them and maintain all vehicles so that there would be no problems in the field.
The local veteran recalls that in Saint-Quentin, France, they stayed in a hotel that served as the battalion headquarters. As always, their assignment was vehicle maintenance.
Stickman moved to various locations during the campaign and was in Munich, Germany, when the war ended. “When we heard it was over, it was a nice feeling. We knew we’d finally be going home.”
But the final chapter in Stickman’s war story wasn’t all “clear sailing,” literally. As they returned by ship, the vessel hit such a fierce storm that an SOS was sent out to another ship for assistance. But the crisis passed and the ship made its way back to New York harbor. He was discharged in Washington, D.C.
Helping keep this young man’s spirits afloat during those turbulent years was a lovely young lady, Marjorie Land of Homer, whom he’d met during service. “She worked for Western Union in Shreveport and wrote me every day.”
After his discharge, Stickman took the train directly to Shreveport, only to find that Miss Land had been transferred to Baton Rouge. So he boarded the next train there.
Wedding bells? Not immediately, for this man of principle told his beloved that only “when I could make a good salary, we could get married. And during that time, with all the soldiers returning, it took quite a while to find a job.”
At last, the mechanical skills he’d acquired during his service during the war helped him get a job with a car dealership and in 1946, the two got married. They went on to have two sons (Roy Jr. and Ray Edward) and two daughters (Becky Barton and Pam Shelton). Extending the family are 10 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.
Roy Stickman is 86 years old.